The sun is shining on this warm Sunday afternoon in Texas. We are sitting on the porch. Me, my wife Lisa and the old men watch the barn swallows and admire the irises. And as always we share communion. Not everybody has the privilege or the ability to visit a church whenever they feel the need. These two gentlemen don’t. They have a hard time leaving their houses as it is. Nevertheless, communion is important to them. My wife says a short prayer. My eyes are closed, my face warmed by the sun. It’s a good day in good company. Then the older of the two men, let’s call him Jack, a veteran in a wheelchair and with a cowboy hat prays out loud, too. First I smile at his words and then, one by one, they begin to choke me until I feel tears in my eyes.
“All I can say, Lord, is that I am yours. All those years I tried so very hard to be righteous but all I did was exclude and hurt people. That is not love. It is not what you want. I am yours, Lord and I am so very sorry.”
For years my wife and others have visited one of these men and brought him communion because he couldn’t make it to church anymore. And for a long time Jack, who lives just across the street has watched that, not sure what was going on. Grown up and highly active in one of the rather fundamentalist churches, he was suspicious. What were those gay people doing? How could they pretend to be Christian when the bible clearly says that they are an abomination?
Eventually, Jack just had to know and came over. Week after week he came over and they shared communion with him. No one from his old denomination ever showed up at his door when he became unable to attend church. A church that years ago had elected him into a position of authority.
On that porch Jack met another veteran from the same war. Only that one was gay. I can only imagine how much they must have talked and how much patience and love it took from both sides to find spiritual common ground.
At some point, years later and when I already knew Jack, his old church did give him a call. They said, they were concerned. Concerned because he consorted with gay people. On the very same day he called my pastor and asked to become a member of our church.
Here we are, the old conservative Republican veteran and me, the young liberal bisexual woman and we agree. We understand each other, we become brother and sister. Quite literally so because only a couple of weeks ago he and I joined the same church, on the same day. It wasn’t just any church. We both joined the Metropolitan Community Church, a denomination with a specific outreach to the LGBT community, a literal sanctuary for those hurt by non-affirming denominations.
It wasn’t necessary to convince this man of anything. It wasn’t necessary to lecture him about what the bible really says about homosexuality. No, it wasn’t even necessary to convince him that his political ideas are harmful to some. We do not have to agree with each other on everything. In fact, we never will. But during all our encounters we both realized that the other is nothing but a human being. Conservatism doesn’t have to be backwards and scary. Liberalism doesn’t have to be irresponsible and bad for the country.
The moment we meet as human beings, far away from all labels, we have to realize the common core in each of us. And the moment we realize that, we cannot help but respect our fellow human being, love them even. Just like we love ourselves. That is Christian.
There on the porch, he prays, acknowledges his wrong doings and makes sure that all three gay people around him hear it: “I am so sorry.”
And yes, that is Christian, too.